In the last two or three years, I have become an avid fan of the daily New York Times Crossword Puzzle. It started with the purchase of a tablet and a digital subscription to the NY Times, followed by the additional purchase of the NY Times Crossword App. Many days end with me working on the puzzle for the day.
At first they were all very hard and confusing. I had to expand my vocabulary. I had to realize that every clue could be interpreted in multiple ways and lead to a variety of words. I learned that the daily puzzles are easiest on Monday and get progressively more difficult each day of the week, with the hardest puzzle appearing on Sunday.
After a while, I learned to use the “helps” provided in the App: You can “check” the puzzle at any point and as many times as you want to see what you have wrong and need to fix; You can hit “Reveal Square” and get the correct letter for that box to get your brain moving in the right direction. AND there is a daily article published in the paper (and linked to the App) that gives you the overall theme for the day’s puzzle and a handful of answers for the day. You will know when you have all of the correct answers in place because the word “CONGRATULATIONS” appears on the screen with a tag line of funky music.
On the calendar that lets you see how many of the puzzles have or have not been completed in the last month, you receive a star for each finished completed puzzle. If you used the “check puzzle” or “reveal square” helps in the App, you will get a Blue Star. But if you complete it without the App’s helps, you get a GOLD Star!
Which leads my Crossword challenged heart to say that we can hear a verity of meanings in the word/s “CrossWords”. Crosswords can be puzzles like the ones published in the NY Times. Or Cross Words may be words that we say in anger that can hurt others.
But here is another thought: CrossWords can mean the words that Jesus spoke from the cross. These CrossWords are remembered and reread most often on Good Friday. But Jesus’ CrossWords are filled with Comfort, Caring, Forgiveness, Welcome, and a Commitment to Love Humanity.
For example, when people mocked and jeered at Jesus and gambled for his clothes, Jesus said “Father, forgive them, for the do not know what they are doing.” When Jesus’ Mother, Mary, stood at the foot of the cross watching her son die, Jesus spoke again and entrusted her care to John. When one of the criminals crucified with Jesus begged Jesus to remember him, Jesus promised him that he would be with Jesus that day in paradise.
Jesus did all of this while hanging on the cross and enduring severe suffering and pain. And at the end, he would say “It is finished,” indicated more than just the end of his suffering, but rather that his sacrificial and loving work for the salvation of humanity was completed.
These CrossWords show us that God’s love encompassed all of our needs, and that God never ceases in God’s desire to be graceful to us.
There is a new fixture in our narthex. It is a cross that has a number of holes in it. This cross is a Prayer Cross for our “CrossWords”, or our prayers. We are taught to pray, and that when we pray we should leave our prayers with God. Leaving our prayers at the cross is a reminder of how Jesus continued to care for us even though he himself suffered greatly. It is a reminder that God is ALWAYS ready to hear the concerns of our hearts and AWAYS seeks to grant us comfort and aid.
When you enter the narthex, you will see a small table near this cross with paper and pens. You are invited to stop and write down the prayers that weigh on your heart each week. Your prayers may be for others or for your own life and struggles. Once you have written your prayer, simply roll it up and place it in one of the holes on the cross, trusting that God hears your prayer. Please be respectful of others, and leave their prayers unread. If you do not have a prayer to leave at the Cross, please take time each Sunday when you see the cross to pray for all those who HAVE left their prayers there. Pause and ask God to hear those prayers, whatever they may be, and to provide comfort and healing for all the CrossWords left there by the people of God.
Gracious and generous God, we thank you for the gifts you have given us.
As we move forward to know, live and share your Word, lead us to continue Good Shepherd’s ministries in our church, community, and the world.
God of wisdom and strength, you know us better than we know ourselves. Guide our hearts towards thankful generosity and service.